by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
In a game they were expected to win, the Elk River Elks found themselves trailing 24-8 against St. Michael-Albertville on Saturday evening.
The Elks righted themselves to pull out a 64-57 victory at home, led by Clay Elrod with 25 points and seven rebounds, and remained unbeaten against section rivals.
“It wasn’t that big a deal. They were just hitting a lot of shots,” said Elrod about the big early deficit. “We just had to play our way out of it.”
Elk coach Randy Klasen praised the Knights for torrid first half shooting.
“They shot 8-for-10 on three’s in the first half, that was a big part of it,” said Klasen. “And we didn’t shoot well, and (point guard) Matt Keller had a couple fouls early and played only six minutes.
“But we really had a good second half. That was the best second half we’ve played for quite a while.”
The main reason the Elks trailed 34-23 at halftime was Jackson Greenwaldt, who had 19 of his 26 points already. He finished with five of his team’s ten 3-pointers and was 5-for-6 at the line.
The junior guard is the grandson of Jim Weinman, longtime (now retired) VandenBerge Middle School principal, who was in attendance.
Trevor Rothstein was next with 13 points for the Knights.
Elrod, 6-foot-6 senior forward, shot 7-for-7 on two-pointers, including some aggressive slashes down the lane where he got nice feeds from alert teammates.
“I’ve made that more a part of my game this year, cutting to the basket,” acknowledged Elrod, who was also 2-for-6 on 3-pointers and 5-for-7 at the line.
Two of those feeds came from Zeke Delain, who had nine points, five rebounds and four assists in the soph guard’s best varsity game to date.
Mitchell Weege sank 18 points, nailing five of nine 3-pointers, including two straight that gave the Elks their first lead at 39-38.
The Elks pushed ahead 56-45 but the Knights made it interesting again as Greenwaldt made a spinning 3-point play in the lane and Rothstein buried a pair of 3-pointers. They got as close as 58-54 before they had to start fouling and the Elks made eight of 12 free shots.
The Elks were 15-for-25 on free shots and STMA was 11-for-16.
The Elks are 13-4 overall and 4-0 against Section 8AAAA rivals. They are currently ranked first in the race for top seed. The Knights fell to 8-10.
Elk River will play at Blaine on Tuesday evening.
Elk River scoring — Clay Elrod 25 (7 reb), Matt Keller 4, Zach Ernst 2 (5 reb), Jarin Haywood 2, Zeke Delain 9 (5 reb, 4 ast), Mitchell Weege 18, Lucas Trapp 4